Whether your little foodie is into Jelly Belly or Ben and Jerry’s, chances are they’ll love going behind the scenes during a food factory tour. We’ve searched coast to coast to find the coolest places to learn how your favorite snacks and treats are made. Keep reading to get the scoop on these peeks behind the curtain.
Jelly Belly Factory—Fairfield, CA
They had you at Buttered Popcorn. Or is it Very Cherry? During the 40-minute (free) tour you'll learn about the history of Jelly Belly, you’ll find out why it takes over a week to make a single bean, and you’ll see thousands of beans whizzing by on conveyor belts. Afterward, hit up the candy shop, sample any of the flavors currently being made (even booger—we dare you!), and load up on your family’s favorite beans. For an up close and personal experience, visitors ages six and up can enroll in Jelly Belly University—an exclusive tour in the heart of the factory.
Good to know: Strollers are permitted so even tiny tots can come!
E. Waldo Ward & Son—Sierra Madre, CA
Welcome to sugar rush central. Since the early 1900s, E. Waldo Ward & Son has been crafting some of the tastiest jams, jellies and marmalades on the West Coast. During your tour, you’ll learn the history of the company, and how their products are made, manufactured and packaged (with a little food science thrown in for good measure), and can also browse the on-site farming museum afterward. Samples are available as well—kids dig the sweet stuff, but you’ve got to try the raspberry jalapeño jam. Free tours are available on Saturdays, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. by calling ahead.
Turkey Hill Ice Cream—Columbia, PA
Be a Turkey Hill ice cream maker for a day on this unforgettable tour. You’ll learn all about dairy culture, sit in a milk truck, milk a mechanical cow and even star in a Turkey Hill commercial. Most importantly, you’ll visit the Turkey Hill taste lab to create your own flavor.
Theo Chocolate—Seattle, WA
Theo Chocolate gets major bragging rights for being the first American chocolate company to go fully organic. At their Seattle headquarters, you can watch their whole bean-to-bar process—from the cacao bean sacks being opened to bars being molded and wrapped. (Psst ... the chocolate samples are plentiful!) Factory tours are small (and led by enthusiastic guides) and meant for kids six and up. For younger tots, there’s also a chocolate story time tour to take in.
Snyder’s of Hanover—Hanover, PA
Pretzels, baby! Your kids have probably eaten hundreds of them, but here’s a chance to watch (and smell) them as they bake in a large pretzel oven. You’ll tour all the rooms where Snyder’s products are made and watch as they’re sorted and packaged. And there are plenty of free samples too.
Mrs. Hanes' Cookies—Clemmons, NC
C is for cookie! The tours at Mrs. Hanes’ are filled with fun sights for little kids. There’s a trip to Grandma’s kitchen, which is equipped with a wood stove, antique cupboard, rolling pins and cookie cutters. You’ll see the secret recipe room, the packaging room, and the most popular part of the tour, the baking area, where everyone gets to watch the “Artists in Aprons" hand-roll and hand-cut cookies. Best part? Visitors get to sample one of the company’s six flavors at each station.
Good to know: You must call in advance to book a tour.
Julius Sturgis Pretzel Factory—Lititz, PA
History buffs and foodies alike will enjoy a visit to the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery. Still owned and operated by the Sturgis family, it is the oldest commercial pretzel bakery in the United States. The bakery is located in a house that was built in 1785, and the pretzels are made using the original recipe from 1861. Visitors get to tour the original bakery, learn the history of the industry, and get to make their own soft pretzels. And, if you have a small group (10 or less), you can just walk right up, no reservation needed!
Good to know: There’s a small fee for the tour, which is best for kids ages four and up.
Cape Cod Potato Chips—Hyannis, MA
You love those classic kettle-cooked potato chips, so if you find yourself in the New England area, a pit stop at the factory is a great way to stretch little legs. The tour itself is short (about 10 minutes or so), but it’s fun to watch the potatoes being sliced, shot into the kettles and salter, and then tossed into bags. The tour ends with guests being given two sample bags of chips.
Good to know: Don’t miss the store adjacent to the factory. There are limited-edition flavors of Cape Cod chips available for purchase!
Tillamook Cheese Factory—Tillamook, OR
From watching massive blocks of cheese be sliced, diced and vacuumed-sealed to the Kidz Zone full of fun facts and sound effects, there’s something for everyone at the Tillamook Cheese factory. The self-guided tour will give your crew a bird’s eye view of the factory floor, and plenty of cheese and squeaky curd samples to try. Then, it’s on to the food hall for yummy eats and massive ice cream cones.
Good to know: You can get more details from our Insider’s Guide.
Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream—Waterbury, VT
Ben and Jerry’s HQ is as fun as the flavors themselves. During the 30-minute tour, guests will learn about the company’s mission and view the production room from behind the mezzanine window, before sampling the flavor of the day. You can stop by the scoop shop before or after (ice cream is allowed on the tour!) for a full serving. Not part of the tour, but also a must-see, is the flavor graveyard. The small memorial to flavors like Wavy Gravy, Bovinity Divinity and Devil’s Food Chocolate is located up the hill behind the plant. The kids can burn off the sugar rush at the playground, and everyone can stop by the gift shop for fun trinkets and memorabilia. Don’t miss the chance for a photo op in front of the giant cut-out ice cream pint!
Good to know: Tickets are only offered daily, on a first come-first serve basis, so get there early.
PEZ Candy USA—Orange, CT
How many dispensers did you have as a kid? The PEZ factory has more. With over 4,000 square feet dedicated to all things PEZ, you’ll not only see where the magic happens, but you’ll also get to admire the biggest public collection of PEZ in the world. Follow up the self-guided tour by checking out the world’s largest PEZ dispenser, playing a PEZ trivia game, checking out the interactive historical timeline and much more.
Shatto Milk Company—Osborn, MO
This family-owned, working dairy farm north of Kansas City, MO, has been supplying customers with a local source of milk for over 50 years. Now, it also supplies visitors with an amazing, behind-the-scenes experience. During the 1.5-hour-long tour (it costs $6), guests will milk a cow, feed a baby cow, learn how the milk is processed and packaged and learn about why glass bottles are the preferred method of transport. At the end of the tour, sample the numerous Shatto Milk products and then wander over to the General Store for gifts and fresh snacks. There’s even an area for picnics—weather permitting.
Good to know: You’ll need to make a reservation to catch the tour. Click here for more info.
Hershey World—Hershey, PA
Did you know there’s an entire town dedicated to the legendary chocolate company? The (free) tour “ride” offers a whole crew of barnyard friends that sing songs and share surprises with visitors. After the 30-minute tour, stay for the 4D Chocolate Mystery, the Chocolate Tasting Experience, and Hershey’s Largest Candy Store, among other fun family activities in and around Hershey Park.
Albanese Confectionery—Merrillville, IN
The Albanese Confectionery is the only place in the United States where visitors can actually watch gummy bears be made. Free tours are designed for all ages—guests can choose between a guided or self-guided version. You’ll view the factory floor through eight separate windows to see the candy being made, watch videos explaining the creation of gummies and Gold Label chocolates, and the best part, have plenty of opportunities to sample the goods at the end of the tour—yummy gummies!
Good to know: Check out our Insider’s Guide for more details.
— Gabby Cullen